Monday, May 16, 2016

The Lucifer Principle, Howard Bloom

I'm thinking that I'll occasionally link to an "alternate review" for those that want more detail than I provide so here is an alternate view.
"Evil (Lucifer) is a by-product, a component, of creation. In a world evolving into ever higher forms, hatred, violence, aggression, and war are a part of the evolutionary plan." 
Plan? Higher forms? Bloom is an atheist, so he needs to realize the fact that his faith REQUIRES that there IS NO PLAN! There are also no "higher forms". A godless universe has no "preferences" -- slime mold is just as "good" as Einstein, and there IS NOT such a thing as "good / evil / Lucifer / etc" in such a universe. So his premise is completely flawed -- if there is no god, there is NO DIRECTOR FOR EVOLUTION ... it is RANDOM! What survives and breeds survives and breeds, and what doesn't, doesn't. No planner, no plan.
"Lucifer is the dark side of cosmic fecundity, the cutting blade of the sculptor's knife. Nature does not abhor evil, she embraces it."  
Again, no god, no plan, no "sculptor". Whatever form breeds best is just fine with the blind watchmaker. No consciousness in "nature", so no "abhor or embrace" -- it just "is".

The conclusion of the book is this:
Super-organisms, ideas [memes],  and the pecking order, these are the primary forces behind much of human creativity and earthly good. They are the holy trinity of the Lucifer Principle. 
Super-organisms are societies / groups -- the United States, Exxon, The NFL. The assertion is that each individual is like a "cell" in the super-organism in which they live.

Ideas / memes are things like Christianity, evolution, free speech, money -- ideas, beliefs, ideology, religion. The book espouses the theory that these "memes" compete for "the fittest" like genes -- memes are the "genes" of the super-organisms.

Pecking order -- goes back to chickens / barnyard. Dominance hierarchies of people and super-organisms. He goes over the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the US Empire along with the rise of Islam as a "killer meme / super-organism". The book was published in 1995, his predictions on the rise of Islamic violence were right on.

The far left hated the book thinking it sounds "Fascist" as in "fittest survive, violence is part of nature / unavoidable / etc". It debunks the "nobel savage" in a number of ways -- one of the most colorful is the !Kung of the Kalahari desert -- very primitive, very warlike, lots of killing, lots of violence. No connection to "corruption" by the west -- they just naturally like to kill each other!

The book would really love to come up with some hopeful note. One example:
It is important that the societies which cherish pluralism survive. It is critical that they spread their values. It is vital that they not mistakenly imagine all other societies to be equal and their own inferior. It is imperative that they not allow their position in the pecking order of nations to slip and that they not cave to the onrush of the barbarians. 
Hmm. That is a very nice sentiment -- he likes "pluralism". Does he "like it" even if it isn't adaptive? I mean, what basis does he like it on? It feels good? He believes there is no god, so the ONLY standard is "what works" -- in evolution, what breeds. As I've pointed out, current "pluralistic", "relativistic", "post-modern" western society DOES NOT BREED! Islam does. Mormons do. Primitive backward groups in Africa do.

In the absence of a "divine meme" that is BELIEVED, then all civilizations really are "equal", because the universe has no order. At a number of places in the book, the above being one, Bloom clearly realizes at some level that "no rules means no rules", which means that the Western "pluralistic" societies may well lose out to societies of "true believers" that are interested in conquest while we are interested in getting men wearing dresses into the ladies room.

Gender uncertainty, homosexuality, abortion and birth control are not really the stuff of "healthy super-organisms" -- in fact, they are a pretty solid indication of a near death super-organism. Organisms that stop replacing their "cells" (eg stop having children), and spend their energy killing off unborn children and encouraging same sex unions really don't play in the godless naturalistic universe. "Pluralism" might feel nice to some authors, but it doesn't play well in the model universe he imagines we live in!

It is hard to recommend this book. There IS a lot of "interesting stuff" in it, some of which was new to me, but given it's flawed premises and rather dark with some "wishful hope" conclusions, it can pretty safely be bypassed for better fare. "Sapiens" would be a great example of that fare, along with "Darwin's Cathedral" to round out the "meme" part a bit.

Bloom manages to criticize "Closing of the American Mind" as "blaming our problems on progress". As you can see in my critique above, I think Bloom fails to understand the results of his own world view, so is casting around for whom he can blame -- "Closing" is just a random target.

I'm just going to stop here -- one can't love every book you read! I think the core issue is really just another attempt to get "Science" to carry the load of philosophy and theology.

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